My Solo Wanderings of the West

kennyj

Explorer
In the days I was there I rode the bike into the mountains every day.




I also got a lot of work done to the van. I got the beginnings of my water system working, mounting the sink and plumbing the fresh water tank to pump and faucet, and hooking up the drain.




It was time to move on. A lot of my desired routes were still closed so I headed south to Colorado and the Routt National Forest on highway 230.




I try to select a particular area as a destination but often a spot on my route seems appealing so I will leave the highway to investigate.
I explored a few of these National Forest access roads but they ended in a flooded and muddy bog before getting onto public lands and I had to turn around.




I ended up on the Bunny Ears Pass route on US Highway 40 heading west toward Steamboat Springs. Again I was finding areas snow covered in the higher altitudes.




And all the side routes were closed.




Coming down the west side of the pass were some short loop roads off the highway with campsites having spectacular views of the valley. I thought that I had found a great spot for the night, but then a zombie came out of the woods and approached me in my van.




He was probably a homeless guy living in the woods and coming out to panhandle, but something about his appearance and demeanor, as well as the large knife sheathed on his belt, really put me off. I camp in a lot of very remote areas and there is not much that spooks me, but that night I did not feel like sharing the woods with the guy.

This picture of him is a capture from my dashcam.




It was getting late in the day and I really wanted to make camp. I backtracked about 15 miles back over the pass to a rather unattractive and muddy site I had seen earlier and parked for the night.
 

kennyj

Explorer
The next morning I started again heading west over the pass. I was going to come out at the junction of highway 131 and head south but at the bottom of the pass I realized that a front brake had cooked so I had no choice but to turn and go into Steamboat Springs to do an emergency brake job.
Working in the parking lot of the Napa store:




It was afternoon by the time I got on my way. Highway 131 is one of those routes that treats you with fresh views every time you round a bend. I would try to identify what mountain ranges I was seeing as they came into sight.







At the crossing of the Colorado River was a junction called State Bridge and an interesting little concert venue. I need to remember to google "concerts at State Bridge".




There was a county road that turned east and followed the river, I decided to turn and follow it for a while. There were a couple of camping areas set aside by the BLM for concert-goers.




A few miles further up the road I came to a very strange little settlement called Rancho del Rio. It was obviously a launch site for rafters and had a small resort area and a bar, but what I noticed were the variety of clapped-out RVs and poly tarp structures. I imagined they housed a bunch of social escapees eking out a living guiding rafting or fishing trips. It also appeared to be beer-thirty on that Wednesday judging by the group at a table outside the bar.




While studying the map I discovered that before State Bridge I had passed another county route that followed the Colorado all the way to Glenwood Canyon. I thought about going back but it was getting late and I decided to continue south on the 131 and look for a camp. If I wanted I could backtrack the next day and explore the route. At the end of 131 I was at Wolcott, Colorado where I found a nice little BLM campground right on the Eagle River. I was tired so I decided to make camp there.

 

kennyj

Explorer
The next morning, after patching up my emergency brake job, I studied the map and saw that the Colorado River Road I wanted to drive came out not too far to the west. I drove through Eagle and Gypsum and turned up county road 301 at Dotsero. I followed along the river for 20 or 30 miles before I turned back.







I was also looking at some of the access roads from county 301 into the White River National Forest. While studying the map I noticed a road name that I recognized from my youth. While camping in Colorado in the 60s a local friend of the family took some of us fishing up Coffee Pot Road. I clearly remembered some beautiful mountain lakes that were literally at the top of the world. It seemed somewhat serendipitous that I found myself on Deep Creek Canyon road to Coffee Pot Road.




According to the map it was about 20 miles through BLM land to the National Forest boundary and another 15 miles to the top of Coffee Pot. Within the first couple miles the BLM had a few designated free campsites along Deep Creek.
I drove a few miles beyond and realized that there would only be many miles of steep shelf road ahead,




...so I parked at what I thought was the best of the BLM spots.




Looking out to the road from my camp.




I knew right away that this was a spot that I would be enjoying for more than a day or two.




Deep Creek, down below my campsite.

 

kennyj

Explorer
The next day I felt like I had been hustling for a few days so I decided to have a casual day around camp. There were a couple things I had been thinking about getting done to the van. I set up shop at camp. Yes, I actually packed in the van a select bunch of tools and supplies so that I could do these projects that I didn't finish before leaving.
Here I am laying out to cut a piece of thin plywood to cover the inside of the rear side window, which will insulate the heat from the outside.





And, finishing up a shelf and getting ready to paint. The shelf will go above the stove to hold often used items.




I had decided that the next morning I would pack the bike for the trip up the mountain to Coffee Pot.
 

kennyj

Explorer
Before I could get started on the day's ride I remembered that I had bought fork oil back in Nebraska. My forks were badly in need of service and I didn't want to make this ride without getting it done.
So without the luxury of a lift I set about wrestling 260 pounds of motorcycle so I could pull the fork springs and top off the oil. I thought about rigging something up in the trees to lift the bike, but I decided that with just brute force I would be on the road much sooner.




With much improved front shocks, and still early in the day, I set off on the 35-40 mile ride up the mountain.




About the first 20 miles wound up shelf road with the views getting better with every turn.
Looking back east down toward I-70 and Gypsum.




The road wound higher and higher and further into the mountains and the views got better.






I left camp at about 4,000 feet altitude and came out on top of a broad mesa at about 11,000 feet.







The temperature had dropped quite a bit and I stopped to zip the liner into my jacket. It was getting downright chilly on the bike!
I was starting to see snow on the road...







The ride came to a screeching halt when I came to this snow bank. There was a possible detour route down to the right but it was a muddy bog that would swallow up my narrow bike tires.




To the left was a very vertical route into the trees above the snow bank.




I made it pretty easily to the top and into the trees but I only found more snow covering what I thought must be the route. Being one of just a few people up here I decided it not wise to ride solo beyond the open road without a real clear direction to reach the destination.
I was now faced with slowly gearing back down the hillside. No drama and it was quite fun going down; I really love the granny first gear on the XT225.




I was disappointed not to make it to the destination but it had been a great ride nonetheless; I spent some time poking around the area before returning to camp.




I took a break and enjoyed the scenery...




went scrambling up a few of the spur roads in the area…




more scenery...




I take a lot of "selfies" on the phone to send to family and friends, I thought I should finally show my mug in this trip report.




On the way back I rode out to an overlook; that's Deep Creek about 3,000 feet below.




Looking east down Deep Creek Canyon toward my camp.




On the return, the switchbacks leading to camp came into view. During one of my stops up top I did something stupid and the bike fell, snapping the front brake lever. I had to make the return ride down the mountain with no front brake! The spare levers are now included in the carry-on tool kit.

 

kennyj

Explorer
The next day, Sunday, it rained all day. I stayed around camp relaxing, watched some movies, and worked on this report. Late afternoon it cleared so I took a short bike ride. From this point about 3-4 miles up the mountain I could get good cell signal so once a day I would go up and contact the outside world.




Monday, I hiked up and down Deep Creek, taking some pictures. Like all the other creeks and rivers I had seen, this one is raging from the melting snow pack.





 

kennyj

Explorer
By Tuesday it was time to move on. The confluence of the Colorado and Eagle Rivers is at Dotsero and beyond that the river winds along with I-70 down Glenwood Canyon.



It's just amazing they built an interstate highway down this canyon. There are several "rest areas" that interconnect with paths to view the area. Each stop had boat launches and I saw several kayakers coming off the river.



I did some re-stocking in Glenwood Springs and headed south. If it had been earlier in the day I would have liked to visit the giant hot springs pool. I was heading past Carbondale down the Crystal River toward Redstone where I had been on several family trips in the 60s and 70s.




Mount Sopris coming into view.




All along highway 133 is designated no camping along the river and just beyond the river is mostly designated wilderness area. The primitive National Forest campground at Redstone that I remember costing maybe a dollar to camp is now outside managed and up to $43 per site. There was no good BLM access, and the only dispersed camping anywhere close, according to the MVUM, was up Coal Creek Canyon Road.




It was not the most picturesque campsite, right along the road, but being a dead-end there was zero traffic so it was a fine place to get some sleep for the next day's trip up to the ghost town at Crystal.
 

kennyj

Explorer
Early the next day I went back up Crystal River a few miles to investigate a free campground called Avalanche. It's basically a trailhead into the wilderness area. It was several miles back a pretty primitive road with even a shallow water crossing. I pulled into a small campground loop that was mostly full of hipster hikers and mountain bikers giving me the evil eye with my motorized bike. (Apologies to all the hipster hikers and mountain bikers reading this. Quoting Charles Bukowski, "It's not that I don't like people, I just feel better when they're not around.") One campsite did have a Tacoma with a popup bed camper and a full-on glamping setup.
I decided to put off any decision about camping to the end of the day. I could always go back to Coal Creek.

Driving again along Crystal River I stopped at a few spots to look around; up until the 60s there were hot spring bath houses at a few places along the river. They were spots built by locals, looking like oversized outhouses enclosing large, deep, natural hot tubs built from slabs of the marble that was quarried locally. I remember going to the hot baths, you would join the queue of families in the chill night in their cars, waiting their turn to use the bath. The bravest even exited the bath and took a rinse in the icy water of the Crystal. Some years later it was said the baths were torn down after too much abuse "by those darn hippies".
I think those areas have been erased by later road construction. I did find a couple stone rings enclosing sulphury-smelling springs for a makeshift hot bath.




The Crystal really is a beautiful river. I remember well my uncle with his creel dipping flies in the river. When we camped at Redstone in the 60s we enjoyed many dinners of freshly caught and pan-fried trout.




I started up the road toward Marble for the ride up to Crystal. Along the way I saw another memory, the old Inn at Redstone.




The view up the valley leading to Marble, and Chair Mountain.




The town of Marble had not seemed to change much except for paving on some of the streets, but what had changed were the number of fabulous homes built all over the mountainsides. Some of the roads leading to those homes high up the mountains would be considered challenging 4wd roads. I couldn't begin to imagine the challenge of building on those sites.




A while ago I posted a trip report with pictures from a trip in this area with my young family in 1974. Link to that trip report: …………

Out past the town of Marble is a public parking area on Beaver Lake. I parked there to unload the bike.
I just made it up to the turnoff for Crystal when the weather started to look bad, so I turned back. I did not want to try a difficult rock road in the rain on a motorcycle.




The last mile back to the van I rode in the rain.

 

kennyj

Explorer
The afternoon storm broke as quickly as it had started and the skies cleared, so I started up the road again. I had taken advantage of the weather break and adapted my dashcam to my helmet, and was able to get video of the ride.

The ride up to Crystal I just rode; I'm not a very experienced trail rider so I put all my concentration in the ride and I will say I did great and had a blast. There were some stretches of talus that were challenging, but again the granny gear of the XT gave me time to pick a line and ride it carefully.

I did not stop to take pictures on the ride up, so I will take some liberty with the order of these pics.

Of course, the money shot of a trip to Crystal is the old mill. It's been said this is one of the most photographed sights in Colorado, I would question that statement just because of its remote location, but regardless many better photographers than myself have recorded this scene. Here is one of my humble attempts from my lowly Nikon point and shoot camera. Of course I say this with tongue in cheek, it's such a beautiful place it's hard to take a bad picture.




After the town of Crystal, the road goes from bad to worse. This leads to Scofield Pass, which has been called one of the more challenging and dangerous 4x4 trails in Colorado. I wanted to see how far I could get safely on the bike. After only a mile or so I had to turn around. I got to a section of road with such steep grade and loose rock that my bike is not set up for and my tires not appropriate for riding. That was okay, I was still enjoying the best ride I've had.




I took some pictures in the town of Crystal…







The Crystal Club, I remember in the 60s was not boarded up and you could see in the windows an old-time saloon frozen in time.




Some of the structures in Crystal have summer residents, and at the end of the street was a "store" with an open sign, but I did not visit. I noticed all the buildings in Crystal had the same fresh looking steel roofs.




I took a lot of pictures on the ride back; here I've tried to pick some of the highlights.
All along the road the scenery was stunning.




This kind of stuff was fun to pick a line to try to ride through.






Approaching one of the talus sections; it's a long ways down here.










I realize this was a pretty moderate trail but it was a fun challenge for me, being somewhat a novice on two wheels. By the ride back I was feeling confident enough to use way more throttle through some sections.




The last few miles were pretty easy riding. Here's the bike loaded back on the van, looking dirty and tired.

 

kennyj

Explorer
It was not so late in the day that I decided to take one more side trip; there is a county road that goes 4 or 5 miles out of Marble to the actual marble quarry.
Here I'm already climbing high above the lake where I parked earlier.







The road winds about 3,000 feet up above the town of Marble.




The route is a little spooky, the consolation is that for many years the road has been used to move heavy equipment and trucks loaded with giant pieces of marble.




At the end of the road, for me, the view up to the quarry area. I seem to remember the actual quarrying is underground in a huge cavern in the mountainside. I need to google that to see what I can find.




The operators of the loaders perched above must have nerves of steel, as here is the view looking down, far below.




It was getting late in the day, I was going to head back down and see if my parking place on Coal Creek was still there. the next day I was going south to Black Canyon of the Gunnison.




Well that's it for updates for the day. I'm now only about week behind on this; I'm back in Moab posting but I'm heading south as soon as I finish. Stay tuned for all the updates with the start of my Utah adventures. Thanks for reading!
 

libarata

Expedition Leader
1. Amazing views. I was born in Ft. Collins, and dearly miss visiting Colorado in the summers.
2. You are making me sick, not being able to visit, and drive that area myself.
3. subbed.
4. Let me know if you head to the east coast.
 

unkamonkey

Explorer
I've lived in Glenwood, State Bridge and Vail. It was fun to see pictures of the area again. Enjoy your stay in Moab, you could spend a month there exploring the area. Our 2 favorite camping areas are East of Dewey Bridge and Indian Creek, just E of the Needles area on the Lockhart basin road. This time of year, the LaSal mountains may be appealing.
 

stioc

Expedition Leader
Awesome trip, great pics and just the right amount of words and details to go with them! thank you for sharing. If you pass through Southern CA let us know in the CA/NV section of this site.
 

Neuner

Observer
Definitely subscribed. Thank you for sharing and I can't wait for the next installment.

This is one of the very few that I can't wait to come back for.
 
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